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Amy Roberts: Anonymity and accountability can’t coexist

Like a lot of people, I’ve consumed more content in the past few months than I have in the past several years. Back in March, when ski season, school and social life all came to an abrupt end, I went on a reading/watching/listening binge. At first, the books, the podcasts, the documentaries and TV series were a way to pass all the extra time I suddenly had without any guilt. Prior to this pandemic, I usually talked myself out of starting a new show or committing to a new podcast (though books always got a pass). Doing so felt like a luxury I had no time to indulge in. Now however, I’ve come to view my recent increase in content consumption as something of a mental health requirement. It’s keeping me engaged, informed and entertained. And, if nothing else, it feels more productive than spending the time honing my Roomba supervising skills.

One of the podcasts I’ve benefited from the most is Brené Brown’s “Unlocking Us.” Dr. Brown is a shame researcher, New York Times bestselling author and professor whose TED talk, The Power of Vulnerability, is one of the most watched TED talks across the globe. In one of her podcast episodes, Dr. Brown discusses the difference between shame and accountability, and explains that people like to commingle the two because accountability is hard work, so it’s often easier to believe someone is trying to shame you rather than trying to hold you accountable.

Shame and accountability, however, are worlds apart. Essentially, it’s the difference between saying, “I am stupid” versus “I’ve done something stupid.” Believing the former doesn’t allow for self-reflection or growth, which is why shame is not an effective tool for behavior change. The latter, stating you’ve done something stupid, requires some self-reflection, accepting of consequences, and acknowledges you can learn from the experience and do better.

It’s in that spirit I believe it’s time we start holding people who are putting the health and safety of our community — both physical and financial — accountable. Specifically, I’m referring to those who attended a birthday party in early August, an event that has caused the county’s numbers of positive COVID cases to jump significantly and jeopardized our local economy. According to reports, the party was held indoors at a lodge, and masks were few and far between. As of this weekend, roughly 75 people tested positive for COVID as a result of this party.

When this pandemic is over, I’m going to throw my mask in the air like a graduation cap. But it’s never going to be over if people continue to behave selfishly and are able to skirt accountability.”

Maybe it’s because my birthday is just a few days before Christmas that the idea it must be celebrated is foreign to me. When your birthday is in December and your name isn’t Jesus, it’s just not a big deal to anyone. So I don’t inherently get the concept that birthdays must be acknowledged in the form of a big bash. Even with that bias aside, I know plenty of people who have postponed or canceled big, milestone events — weddings, bar mitzvahs, reunions and more — simply because doing so was less disappointing than finding out their reckless behavior caused a business to close, or someone to lose their job, or another person to end up in the hospital.

The lodge where this party was held might not have been aware of what was planned, but certainly someone knew what was happening when it was happening. It is the responsibility of that business to comply with local health ordinances, which mandate masks and limit the number of people gathered in one space to ensure social distancing. Further, shouldn’t the rest of us be able to verify there was a deep cleaning before potentially patronizing the business? If protecting ourselves is truly our responsibility, we must be given the tools to do so.

The public has a right to know the name of the business that rented this space, the host and any confirmed attendees. We don’t need to know who tested positive — that would be a violation of patient privacy — but reports are this group isn’t cooperating with the Health Department, making contact tracing difficult. All the more reason to inform citizens, because doing so allows us to safeguard our health and our budgets. For example, if you own a bar and three of the people confirmed to have attended this party work for you, or even came in as patrons, it would make good business sense for you to take them off the schedule for 14 days, or possibly deny serving them in an effort to stay open. That’s one way to hold people accountable and protect your livelihood. We are all tired of this. Many are actually sick and tired of it. Having a birthday doesn’t make you wearier than the next guy. When this pandemic is over, I’m going to throw my mask in the air like a graduation cap. But it’s never going to be over if people continue to behave selfishly and are able to skirt accountability.

Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.


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